(director/writer: Woody Allen; screenwriter: Marshall Brickman; cinematographer: Carlo Di Palma; editor: Susan E Morse; cast: Jerry Adler (Paul House), Lynn Cohen (Lillian House), Diane Keaton (Carol Lipton), Anjelica Huston (Marcia Fox), Woody Allen (Larry Lipton), Alan Alda (Ted), Ron Rifkin (Sy), Joy Behar (Marilyn), William Addy (Jack The Super), Melanie Norris (Helen Moss), Zach Braff (college son of the Liptons); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert Greenhut; Tri-Star Pictures; 1993)
“An engaging life imitates art comedy/crime drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Typical funny Woody Allen(“Annie Hall”/”Manhattan”/”Hannah and Her Sisters”) flick, where he’s the co-writer with Marshall Brickman, star and director. Woody teams up with Diane Keaton, for the first-time since the 1970s, as she gets the co-starring part meant for Mia Farrow (with Mia and Woody during filming going through an unpleasant custody battle). It’s an engaging life imitates art comedy/crime drama that might be a trifle and its complex plot too preposterous, but it gleefully entices film buffs with referenced films such as Double Indemnity, The Last Year at Marienbad, Rear Window and Welles’ Lady from Shanghai. Though it drags somewhat in the middle part, overall there’s something special about Woody doing his nebbish neurotic thing that provokes laughter.

Woody plays the middle-aged nervous wise-cracking book editor Larry Lipton, a Bob Hope-like movie coward, caught up with his nosy aspiring restaurant owner wife, Carol (Diane Keaton), who has too much time on her hands with the couple’s son attending Brown University. This leads wifey into investigating the doctor verified coronary death of their Manhattan next-door neighbor’s elderly wife Lillian House (Lynn Cohen). Because the kindly new widow Paul House (Jerry Adler) is not grieving for his long-time wife’s recent death and is instead acting cheery, Carol suspects him of murdering his wife and conducts an investigation with her sympatico adventurous divorced old playwright pal from New Jersey Ted (Alan Alda), someone Larry’s jealous of. When Lillian is spotted by Carol alive on a Manhattan crosstown bus hubby, to enliven his long-time dull marriage, changes his initial negative response to the investigation and joins in getting additional help from his imaginative sexy poetess client Marcia Fox (Anjelica Huston). Things perk up when revival cinema house owner House is tailed by Ted and Carol and spotted with gorgeous model Helen Moss (Melanie Norris). Also a player in the crime mystery is House’s long-time theater assistant Marilyn (Joy Behar), who is loyal to the boss and willingly provides alibis for him when needed.

The goofy film plays light with familiar old movie scenes of vanishing corpses, bumbling amateur sleuths, and a bickering couple obsessed with playing detective. The pic works since most of Woody’s one-liners hit the mark and its strange whodunit denouement is whacky enough to keep your attention throughout.